We received this question from one of our readers… here are the answers from our editorial staff…
Dear Gear Diary,
Does iPhone 4 kill the flip? I’ve wanted something like that for a while but think the new iPhone might be as good or better.
Flipping Out For The iPhone 4
Dear Flipping Out,
Dan: I love my Flip Video Camera. I really do. But I do worry about their future… unless they make one significant change in a hurry.
When the iPhone 3GS came out and had the ability to shoot video, I questioned how it might impact the Flip. After all, why carry a Flip when you have a video camera with you all the time that can not only shoot video but then edit it with an app like ReelDirector AND share it with others without having to go near a computer? At the same time, the Flip camcorders shot video with far better quality, especially the HD versions. Mix in the fact that using a Flip instead of the iPhone saves battery life, and the Flip still had a lot going for it… especially since there are plenty of people who don’t have iPhones or Android handsets that shoot video.
The iPhone 4 doesn’t change this situation all that much, except now the quality of the video being shot with the iPhone will be far better AND the new iMovie app will do even more in the “on-the-fly editing” department than before. Still, when you hear that 600,000 or more have already been ordered, you can’t help but think that this creates another 600,000 potential Flip customers who have no reason to buy a Flip now. And that number will continue to grow. I don’t see ANY reason for someone with an iPhone 4 to get a Flip so that does hurt them a bit.
Cisco missed the boat with their latest Flip camcorder in my opinion. The large sliding screen is a nice gimmick, but what Cisco SHOULD have done (and still needs to do) is add WiFi to the device so there is some way to share video without plugging into a computer.
Bottom line is the iPhone has long made a number of separate devices unnecessary, and the iPhone 4 just continues the trend. Is there still a market for the Flip line of pocket camcorders? Yes, but it is smaller than ever.
But there’s still a market for these, they just need to find a niche. I don’t know how ruggedized these are, but if they are tough enough they make more sense than a smartphone to take video at the beach, a sports event, etc. If Cisco focuses on marketing the flip for those times you don’t want your smartphone at risk (on top of a mountain, during a rainstorm) they can absolutely hang on and prosper with the right audience.
Larry: Does the iPhone put an end to the Flip? Not in my opinion. Why? For the simple reason that not everyone owns an iPhone. But almost everyone can afford a Flip. The Flip is a great, ultra-inexpensive way for the average consumer to own a pocket-sized video camera. Not every phone on the market has video recording capabilities. Those non-video camera phone users are still a reliable market for Flip marketeers to go after.
Even when I owned a Flip I’d still carry it with my iPhone. We all know the iPhone’s battery isn’t stellar. Recording video with an iPhone for 2 hours is a great way to fully deplete one’s battery. I’d much rather bring along two devices, use the flip to record video and have my iPhone charged for when I need it then only rely on one and find myself with a dead iPhone.
Having video recording on the iPhone is great, and the fact that it’ll be HD on the iPhone 4 is even better. But I’ll never see the iPhone as my primary video capturing device. It’ll always play second fiddle to whatever video camera I own.
Judie: I have the Flip Ultra HD, but unless I have a day planned where I fully expect to record video, I usually don’t pack it in my bag. And yes, this means that when a video opportunity arises I am going to use the video recorder that I have with me, which is going to be the one on my mobile phone. Because of the better video capabilities on many of the mobiles I have been carrying lately (the N900, the HTC HD2, and the iPhone 3GS), I haven’t even felt a disadvantage. There is much to be said about the best camera you own being the one you have with you. So knowing that I don’t necessarily have to carry another device with me to get good video footage does hurt the chances that I would buy another dedicated video camera in the future, Flip or another brand.
I don’t mind carrying an extra device when I know I’ll need it, but on most days the only extra device I am willing to carry is a Richard Solo rs1800 (which takes care of the iPhone battery life issue) not my Flip HD.
So that’s what we think. What do you think- does the iPhone 4 (or any other smartphone with awesome video abilities) kill stand-alone devices? Chime in below…